Like other Latin American societies, Chile has a strong machista (chauvinist) element. Women are traditionally mothers, homemakers, and caregivers, while men are providers and decision-makers, though this is changing. Domestic violence is a serious problem, especially among the lower classes, but it is not unique to them.
Many Chilean men view foreign women as sexually available, and this can lead to harassment. Harassment is usually verbal, but it can turn ugly. If you receive unwanted attention, try to ignore it, and the odds are that the problem will go away on his own. If not, the next best option is to return to your hotel, a restaurant, or some other public place where harassment will be more conspicuous and you’re likely to find support. Some women have suggested wearing a bogus wedding ring, but truly persistent suitors might see this as a challenge.
Despite problems, women have begun to acquire political prominence. The most noteworthy is President Michelle Bachelet, elected in 2006 after serving as both Health Minister and Defense Minister. Longtime activist Gladys Marín, who died in 2005, was the 1999 Communist presidential candidate (during the campaign, though, a TV interviewer remarked that Marín had the best legs of any candidate—to which she responded with her most simpática smile).
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition